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How to become a better reader in 2022, according to 4 voracious readers

WORDS BY HANNAH COLE

But remember, it’s not a competition.

I’m a sucker for a challenge, particularly one I have a fair chance of winning. Committing to reading 26 books in a year in the Goodreads Reading Challenge always sounds like a good idea, until maybe it isn’t. I realise I’m not as fast or prolific as I should be.

I’m not as ‘well-read’ and rounded as some of my peers. I’m also underachieving astronomically because some people near (or at least aim for) lists into the hundreds. 5,738,895 people took part in the challenge last year. How many of them completed it?


Looking for more thought-provoking reads? Try our Life section.


As I scroll through post after post of book recommendations, reviews, and op shop hauls (hello, #bookstagram), I can’t help but wonder: is this competitiveness healthy, and how can I become a better reader? In search of some solid advice, I asked a few of my favourite voracious readers for their tips and tricks.

On reading goals

The concept of reading goals splits us right down the middle – you either love them or hate them. For Laura Brading, the co-founder of curated subscription service WellRead, reading is all about “quality over quantity”. “So many people have quantified reading goals,” she tells me. “But I think meaningful connection with books and experiencing joy through reading is a much cooler goal.”

Writer and prolific reader Hannah-Rose Yee echoes this sentiment. Her only goal this year? “I just hope that I keep finding the joy and pleasure in reading, especially as I have to read so much for work.”

It’s a struggle I’ve felt (and one any Goodreads competitor has likely felt). It’s the end of the year, and you are racing through to smash those goals. The enjoyment is sapped; the book choice is purely based on page count, not genuine interest or allure. Is this when reading becomes a chore?

On the other end of the spectrum sits Pauline Kimberley, a Melbourne-based bookstagrammer who found her calling during one of 2020’s lockdowns, and my friend Caitlin. Both set reading goals each year, finding motivation and a sense of accomplishment in the target.

On the act of reading

Whether you set goals or not, the hardest part is often finding the time and committing to the practice. I love reading, but it takes me weeks to reach the end, no matter how much I love the tale; Pauline read 176 books last year. How do they do it?

First, make time to get acquainted with your book from the outset. Laura recommends reading at least 20 to 30 pages at the start (“50 would be nice, but I know we don’t all have vast expanses of time at the ready”). Use those initial pages to settle into the story, familiarise yourself with the characters and understand what you’re getting into.

Next, make it a ritual. I like the way Caitlin describes reading. “I see reading just like exercise, it can start off like a chore, and progress feels slow initially. Over time, the more you set reading routines just like exercise regimes, it becomes rhythmic.”

Set aside time every night before going to bed or integrate it into a self-care ritual. Note these wise words from Laura: “I also recommend starting on the couch in the evening, or at least sitting up, and then graduating to bed/lying down, so you don’t fall asleep after two pages.” Hannah-Rose reads in the bath. “I know the book is good if I have to top up the bath with hot water so that I can keep reading.”

Instead of an inconvenient truth of city living, public transport can become a time to lap up the words. Annoying moments spent waiting – in queues, delayed appointments – are an opportunity to delve into another world; solo lunch breaks are snippets of time to spend with fictional friends. Ultimately, it comes down to creating space for your reading and carving out time in a way that suits your lifestyle and daily happenings. Squeeze in the chunks wherever possible.

Don’t be afraid to call it quits. A hard slog of a novel saps the enjoyment out of reading and, more importantly, your precious downtime. “Life is just too short to finish a book that you don’t love, and no one is going to care – or even really know – except for you,” says Hannah-Rose. Laura agrees. “You are not morally inferior because you didn’t finish it.” Give it a go; if it doesn’t fit, put it down and try something else. Sometimes the timing is wrong. Next year, in five years (or maybe never) the book will sit just right.

Lastly, carry a book with you everywhere you go. As Pauline notes, “any chunks of time – big or small – still count.” Even toting a baguette bag, there is no excuse – opt for an eBook on a Kindle, iPad or phone. We’re an inclusive bunch, and digital versions count, too.

On choosing the right books

2021 was the year of Sally Rooney (the bucket hat!), but is hopping on the zeitgeist-y bandwagon always worth it? “A lot of books get hyped because they are actually really good books,” notes Laura. “But others are more by-products of the publishing spin machine.” The key is to develop, hone and identify your own taste.

“Figuring out your taste is part of the fun of reading: you have to read a lot to work out what it is that you like,” says Hannah-Rose. Pay attention to the opinions of your local bookseller, look for recommendations from your friends or follow Instagrammers and podcasters who like the same genre. And remember, as Hannah-Rose assures me, “It really doesn’t matter if they’re not the ‘cool’ genres that everyone is reading”. Do your own thing.

On the radar-worthy books of 2022

But if you are in the market for some recommendations, keep your eyes peeled for these newcomers as recommended by our reading experts (of course, only if they satisfy your unique taste).

A Great Hope by Jessica Stanley (Released February 2022, suggested by Hannah-Rose. “It’s a juicy family saga meets political drama, with murder and mystery and mayhem and sex, like Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife but with added Fantales and Light and Tangy Thins, by which I mean more Australian!”)

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel (Released April 2022, recommended by Laura, Hannah-Rose and Pauline.)

The Surprise by Zadie Smith (Released September 2022.)

Marshmallow by Victoria Hannan (Released September 2022, again recommended by all three.)

For more book recommendations, head here.

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